Day 14: Waterfall Rappelling in The Lost Canyon
Just when I thought my trip couldn't get any better, I discovered that today, the last of my two-week journey in Arenal, I would be canyoning with the family of Miguel Angel Rodriguez, the former president of Costa Rica.
One of the ultimate Costa Rican adventure sports, canyoning involves hiking into a deep rainforest canyon to rappel a series of tropical waterfalls using various climbing techniques. I joined my friends at Desafio Adventure Company for this adrenaline-fueled experience, one that I couldn't wait to share with my family and friends back home.
We hopped into the back of a 4x4 for the 30-minute ride to the Lost Canyon, where a short hike down a steep incline took us into another world. Along the way we chatted with Miguel Angel's young grandchildren, two fearless brothers who couldn't wait to get wet and wild on our canyoning adventure.
We arrived at our first waterfall, where our four disarmingly-handsome Desafio guides helped us gear-up in harnesses, gloves and helmets. Although they kept the mood light with plenty of jokes, they exuded the kind of confidence that prompted complete trust. We carefully reviewed proper techniques before rappelling down the fall. At just 15-feet, it was the perfect size to get our feet wet (as well as other body parts) and prepare us for the rest, including a 210-foot giant at the very end.
That first step backward is always the hardest, even on the smallest of drops. My guide clipped me in, reassuring me that I had not one, but three safety ropes. I descended with ease, getting soaked in the process, and landed on terra firma with a grin. Before I knew it, my belay had unclipped me and given me a big thumbs up.
We scrambled along the narrow river canyon, climbing slippery rocks and using the classic butt-scoot maneuver to ease down mini-waterfalls. Sloshing our way to the next platform, we slid off rocks into small river pools that were waist-deep in cool mountain water. I felt like a kid again, exploring the lost world.
Waiting my turn to rappel a 155-foot fall, I realized that I was completely unafraid. For most of us, the anticipation was the most challenging part and we cheered one another on as we took turns rappelling the massive falls.
For one brief moment, I hesitated just before plunging off the platform. My guide looked mestraight in the eyes and guaranteed me that I was safe with him. I took off with gusto and glided down the falls, occasionally bouncing in and out of the crashing waters.
By the time we reached the last waterfall, which towered more than 210-feet high, we felt like canyoneering pros. We zoomed down the sheer rocky surface, with what felt like superhuman powers.
In total, we had descended eight waterfalls in a pristine rainforest canyon, getting completely drenched in the process. Once again, Desafio Adventure Company had delivered some serious fun.
After a short hike out of the canyon, we devoured some fresh pineapple while our guides loaded up the gear. We piled into the back of the truck and headed to the lovely riverfront home of Suresh and Christina Krishnan (Desafio's owners) for a home-cooked lunch in their rancho.
While enjoying good conversation with our guides on the riverbank, I saw Miguel Angel join his family for lunch. No bodyguards, no fanfare - just a nice family laughing over the day's escapades. The whole experience was slightly surreal, and added a wonderful touch to an already magical day.
By the time I arrived at Mountain Paradise Hotel, it was late afternoon. A brand new resort with prime volcano views, the hotel offers posh Jacuzzi suites with in-room wireless (including free use of laptops), and private terraces. The rooms were rustic and luxurious all at once, with natural wood beams, a large rough-hewn canopy bed, white-washed adobe walls and Spanish tile roofs.
In addition to the rustic style, I loved the suite's rainshower, set in river rock and decorated with fresh orchids. Mountain Paradise Hotel offers its guests free shuttle service to and from La Fortuna center, but I had other plans. After a long soak in the Jacuzzi and early dinner, I crawled into the comfort of crisp, clean sheets in my king-sized bed for a pampered sleep.